Rebecca | Daphne du Maurier
Page count: (Paperback) 410
Publication date: August 1938
Publisher: Victor Gollancz
Genres: Classic, gothic, suspense, romance, historical, mystery
“A classic novel of romantic suspense finds the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter entering the home of her mysterious and enigmatic new husband and learning the story of the house’s first mistress, to whom the sinister housekeeper is unnaturally devoted.”
Five out of five stars for my favorite classic to date! I’m so glad I’ve started reading classics, they can be such a ride. And let me tell you, this one most definitely took my reins and jerked me all over the place. It might not be for everyone because of the slow pacing, but if you stick with it I swear you’ll have a great time.
As I’m sure you’ve heard if you’ve read the description, this is “a tale of romantic suspense”. But it’s also a dark twisty mind game. There’s a reason it was turned into a Hitchcock film, trust me. Our narrator is taken down some pretty dark paths as the novel progresses, and I think they would be interesting to see in a movie format! I’ll get around to watching it when I stop being a scaredy-cat (aka probably never but let’s be optimistic.)
This is the kind of suspense that isn’t edge-of-your-seat, it’s more of a huddling-under-your-bedsheets-with-chills kind of read. It’s a psychological thriller, not one of those gory types. And it’s amazing.
As I said earlier, it has a slow pacing. I get that slow-paced books are not a fan favorite, but it’s absolutely necessary here. It allows for a building of tension and a glimpse inside the troubled mind of our narrator, where the presence of her husband’s deceased first wife seems to haunt her.
The writing was flawless. Daphne du Maurier had published three or four books before Rebecca, and she took the time to perfect her brand of craft. The atmosphere came with the writing and the imagery was beautiful! Only Daphne du Maurier could make something as harmless as rhododendrons seem so sinister.
We were among the rhododendrons. There was something bewildering, even shocking, about the suddenness of their discovery. The woods had not prepared me for them. They startled me with their crimson faces, massed one upon the other in incredible profusion, showing no leaf, no twig, nothing but the slaughterous red, luscious and fantastic, unlike any rhododendron plant I had seen before.
I glanced at Maxim. He was smiling. “Like them?” he said.
I told him “Yes,” a little breathlessly, uncertain whether I was speaking the truth or not, for to me a rhododendron was a homely, domestic thing, strictly conventional, mauve or pink in color, standing one beside the other in a neat round bed. And these were monsters, rearing to the sky, massed like a battalion, too beautiful I thought, too powerful; they were not plants at all.
The only thing that bothered me throughout my read was that we never got the name of our narrator. She was always just “Mrs. de Winters.” We never learned her first name or maiden name. When reading the author’s note at the back of my copy, Daphne responded to the question of why she never gave her a Christian name as simply that she couldn’t find the right one. So she didn’t. It annoyed me to no end at the beginning, but eventually, I accepted it as part of what made the book so mysterious and chilling.
I’m so glad I read Rebecca as this month’s classic of the month! I had a fantastic time and I hope you all get the chance to read it eventually.